Friday, October 23, 2009

The Value of Friendship

I have been feeling a bit bitter and disillusioned about the concept of "friendship" as it's applied to me in my lifetime until recently.

A virtual friend and fellow blogger, Jaime (Just1mama) wrote about a friend from years gone by who is dying from cancer and has only months to live.

Jaime's thoughtful and provoking entry allowed me to take a mental inventory of my own feelings about friendship.

You see, I recently had a falling out with a friend.

My friend and I live close to one another, have kids the same age, share similar interests and taste in music,movies, and clothing. Our husbands even work and play softball together.

It would seem I had found the Thelma to my Louise, or the Rose to my Blanche. For nearly a year we enjoyed one another. Weekend bar-b-ques, adult's nights out, softball games, trips to the park, holiday and birthday celebrations.

Somewhere, somehow it turned cold. At one point, my friend shared with me she felt hurt by me, and the way I talked to her at times. I apologized, and honestly meant that I'd had no intention of making her feel that way.

About a month after that initial discussion my friend then told me that she felt I had a penchant for "one-upmanship" and if she did anything, I would invariably upstage her by doing it better.

At this point in the conversation, (which was being held via instant message) my temper got the better of me. I literally had no idea what she could have been talking about. We carried the conversation into a phone call where I pressed her for details of my one-upmanship.

My friend really had no examples to lend except to tell me that I "don't have to be better" than her. We argued for the better part of what felt like forever, but was probably only ten minutes. Suffice to say it didn't end well.

I was angry, she was angry. I spent all afternoon evaluating the conversation, the history of our friendship and my soul. Later in the day, after I'd calmed myself, "friend" contacted me via text.

Another 2 hours of arguing passed by. Another 2 hours of our lives wasted.

"Friend" told me that we should just "agree to disagree" and the mark of true friendship is "arguing about things, and getting over it." I knew in that moment, I wasn't meant to be friends with her any more.

It's not that I was not willing to accept and acknowledge her feelings, if I believed I had done anything wrong. I never intentionally trumped her accomplishments. I said I was sorry she'd felt that way, and that I certainly did not see our friendship & life achievements as a competition.

I chose to end the friendship.

Since that moment, the fall-out has been nothing short of hurtful and maddening.

Perhaps my method of ending the friendship was where I went wrong. In the past, I always salvaged my imperfect friendships after each argument until I'd been used up and left nurturing a broken spirit. This is the first time I have walked away leaving both dignities in tact.

I chose to end it, by simply not responding to contact or initiating any in return. Maybe I should have told "friend" we were not right for one another. This might have helped her understand my feelings. Maybe she feels slighted.

Since I know this blog entry will invariably make it's way to her, I'll say this.

Dear Friend,

Despite what you think, what you've told others (including your children) I don't hate you. I don't hate anybody. Thought you would have learned enough about me to know that.

It feels as though you've built this image in your mind of me as this cold-hearted, calculating, dismissive, passive aggressive, status quo bitch. I'm not, you know.

I told you that first day at the park that I was a transparent person & that with me, "what you see is what you get."

I am an enthusiastic person. I am proud of my husband, my kids and my accomplishments in life. That does not mean I would ever intentionally minimize a friend's accomplishments. It was never my intention to make you feel marginalized or upstaged. And I am genuinely sorry if you felt that way.

We are two different people. It's obvious to me now, more than ever that I was not the friend you needed in your life. It's not the end of the world, for either of us. I can't see how you'd want to settle with a friend in your life that doesn't meet your requirements or why you'd want to keep somebody around you felt "had to be better than you."

In the reverse, I couldn't be friends with somebody if I felt like I was walking on eggshells constantly. Always wondering, worrying if I had said or done anything that day that would have hurt that person.

I don't see why we can't be cordial with one another when we are out. You know, have a beer, chat about the kids, shoot the shit...whatever. We just won't be "best" friends, or "close" friends.

Life is too short to live this way & there are too many valuable things in both of our lives that deserve more attention.

What do you think? If this isn't workable for you, that's fine, you don't have to respond. But do me a favor, let's leave the kids and other people out of it.

As always, best regards to you and yours.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Off Roading in Week Seven

So here we are, in week seven of homeschool and at this point we are 3/4 of the way to being completely "off grid". Being "off grid" means to be utilizing another curriculum and set of standards other than the California State suggested (required) curriculum.

I think I knew somewhere around weeks 1-3 that we wouldn't last terribly long "on grid." It seemed as if both Gabriel and I were working to feed some faceless monster completed, perfected ditto after ditto after ditto. I felt pressured to plow through the material, and poor Gabriel felt pressure to understand the material as it was presented, which was dry.

Here's what we're working on now .....

Reading & Writing
This was the first subject from grid I threw overboard. The textbook was filled with boring stories Gabriel had no interest in, and was expected to answer questions about. I wanted his reading education to be based upon classic literature. So, we started reading "Little House in the Big Woods". I have based all his writing assignments taking cues from each chapter we've read. For example, he's written journal prompts about "My Favorite Day of the Week", "I Was Afraid but Didn't Need to Be", and "A Time I Got into Trouble."

We've also done a few cooking activities supporting our read as well.

Social Studies
This is a subject Gabriel is almost always interested in, but some days are hit or miss with his attention span. For the month of October, we've gone "off grid" to incorporate Gabriel's choice of Halloween costume (mummy) into a Social Studies lesson. We are exploring Ancient Egypt, Mummies & Mummification.

I have been excited to learn there are a few Ancient Egyptian exhibits floating around Southern California museums, one of which just happens to be held at our local Cal State University! This Thursday we will be visiting the "Art of Death in Ancient Egypt" exhibit. (many thanks to the Phoebe A Hearst museum of Anthropology)

This was our third subject to go off grid with. I was bored out of my mind reading the first two chapters of the book which dealt with "safety in science." I learned our school has several science "kits." The kits are complete with a detailed lesson plan, activity workbooks, and supplies to do an experiment related to the lesson plan.

So, we are currently working on our "Detective Kit" and once we are finished I would like to incorporate some lessons from the Core Knowledge series.

This just happens to be Gabriel's least favorite subject. (it was mom's least favorite too) Gabriel's poor understanding of math has placed him with a third grade level, and I'm OK with that. I would like for him to build a strong foundation in this subject before we move on. Unfortunately, there is no making math more interesting (that I know of) so we've stuck with California curriculum.

Our pediatrician told me about a book called "Math Doesn't Suck" and I might just have to check that out. For now, we'll stay "on grid" with math.